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Chamba > Oldest Devi temples


Chamba can boast 0f three such temples adorned with the finest wood-carving found in the north. They are the  temples of Lakshana , at Brahmaur ; that of Shaktj, at  Chhatrahi; and that of Kali,  at Mirkula or Udaipur in Lahul. It will be noticed that these three are all dedicated to Devi. The Brahmaur and Chhatrarhi temples can be approximately dated; for they contain brass images with inscriptions which record their erection by Meru-varman, and on account of their character may be assigned to about A. D. 700. I have little doubt that the images are contemporaneous with the temples in which they are enshrined. It should be remembered that the timber used for these buildings is the wood of the Himalayan cedar or deodar (Cedrus deodara) which, if  well seasoned, is one of the most durable timbers existing.    The carvings which are exposed to the weather, e. g., tbose on the facade of the Lakshana Temple, are now much decayed, but wherever sheltered they exhibit an excellent state of preservation. This point is especially conspicuous in the carved capitals of tile Shakti temple.

Lakshana Temple Bharmaur

The plan of the Lakshana Temple differs from that described above, in that in front of the shrine we find an ante-room, the two being enclosed within a solid wall of rubble and wood masonry which has replaced the verandah. The facade of this building is of particular interest, as in the style of its decoration it exhibits a close affinity to the architecture of Kashmir and Gandhara, and, indeed, shows traces of classical influence peculiar to the monuments of the North- West. Under the ridge-beam of the roof we notice first of all the triangular pediment with the trefoil arch, a characteristic feature of the Kashmir temples. The seated figure in the arch is not of Kali, as supposed by Cunningham, but Surya the sun-god, as is evident from the position of the legs. His twelve arms, holding various attributes, are presumably indicative of the twelve months of the year. The seven crouching figures along the basis of the triangle probably represent t he seven days of the week . 

Here, as well as on the architraves between the pediment and the doorway, we find an arrangement frequent in the Greco- Buddhist art 0f Gandhara; rows of figures in arched niches, separated by dwarf pilasters. In the lowermost row the figures are amatory couples which can be traced back to Greco-Buddhist examples. We notice also a row of supporting, crouching figures frequently met with in Gandhara sculpture and corresponding to the Atlantes of classical art. 

The ornamentation on the lintels and jambs of the door-way is of a purely Indian type. Over the entrance we find a double row of garland-carrying flying figures, presumably meant for Gandharvas. In the upper row each of these figures is accompanied by a female figure seated on its hip. Along the jambs standing figures are placed which are difficult to identify owing, to their decayed state. On both sides of the threshold the river goddesses Ganga and Yamuna (i. e. the Ganges and Jamna) are still recognizable, each holding a water-vessel and a lotus-stalk. and standing on their vehicles the crocodile (makara) and the tortoise. Finally I wish to draw attention to the winged dragons rampant, which adorn the upper corners of the door-way.

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Temples of Bharmaur  Temple at Saho. Architecture of Hill Temples  
Oldest Devi temples     Shakti Temple Chhatrarhi Chamunda temple Devi Kothi